Whodunits or Thrillers?

Distinctions about what readers like to read and what writers write can be divided neatly. You can find my own subgenre of the mystery crime/suspense thriller genre on the police procedural branch of the subgenre tree.

Specifically, the whodunits.  I like the cerebral quality of following the detective in an investigation.

With a thriller you know pretty soon who the evil villain is and his big stakes plan to take over the world. Then it’s all a race against the clock to save the world as we know it. Granted this can be pretty exciting with a lot of car chases, steamy sex, and explosions along the way.

I like the mystery of the whodunits.  I am getting the clues to solve the mystery and nab the killer just as the detective learns them. I had a friend who reads the last chapters first so that she knows who the killer is because she can’t stand the suspense. She has to know whodunit.  I wanted to snatch my book out of her hands and beat her over the head with it.

I know the rules of suspense thrillers, and with a stun gun at my back I suppose I could write one, but would it be any good? We are drawn to one branch or another. Something in our psyche or backstory, or our world of experience takes a wisp of an idea and starts playing what if, what if?

In my case, what if led me to the second floor of the Santa Monica Public Safety Building shared by the Police and Fire Department. My detective has been Dave Mason for five crime novels now and I’m working on another. I lived in Santa Monica for a generation and saw the way it accelerated from a sleepy beach town to a city with a hot buzz that makes it now almost unrecognizable.

I write a second series set in the tranquil California mountain town where my security patrol officer heroine and an insufferable Bakersfield homicide cop deal with rural problems.  This summer it’s the opioid and bear incursion. Real life, by the way.

Mystery crime/suspense thriller? It’s a roomy branch on the subgenre tree. Detectives can vary from Lincoln Rimes to Anna Pigeon. I’ve always been fascinated by the lives big city cops live.  Never wanted to be a cop, or date a cop, or go to a cop bar, just observe.  I’m a watcher by nature, the one holding up the wall or looking at the bookcase at a party, talking quietly with one other person in the corner.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t imagine being a 5 foot 10 security patrol officer with curly hair chasing a bad guy (or a bear) down a dark alley at midnight?

See Holly Seabright (me) in The Most Dangerous Species. Murder in a cat rescue sanctuary. Definitely not a cozy.


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